Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
By Jill Terreri
April 12, 2012
Advocates for campaign finance reform gathered in Rochester on Thursday, saying that public financing of campaigns would encourage more women and racial minorities to run for office while encouraging smaller donations.
A coalition including the Working Families Party, Metro Justice and Citizen Action noted the reliance state legislators have on donors from outside their districts to fund their campaigns.
The push comes at a time when Albany power brokers may be open to changing the system, which now includes high contribution limits for individual donors and loopholes that allow corporations to give unlimited money to certain political committees.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he would like to change the state’s campaign finance system to include lower contribution limits and public matching of donations. Aside from a mention in his January State of the State address, however, he has not detailed his plans or submitted legislation.
Thursday’s event featured graphic displays that noted the heavy reliance on outside donors by Republican Sens. Joseph Robach and Jim Alesi. Asked why donations to local members of the Assembly were not also included, organizers said the system is broken throughout, and that the state Assembly has in the past approved some of the reforms they are pushing.
“The very foundation of our democracy is at stake,” said Paula Hansen, president of Metro Justice.
Another organization, New York Leadership for Accountable Government, is also seeking public financing of state-level campaigns.
The group includes wealthy businessmen such as Barry Diller, and former elected officials such as New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Reps. Amory Houghton and Michael Arcuri.
Advocates of campaign finance reform at the state level look to New York City, which has a publicly funded matching program if candidates raise enough support from individual donors.